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Dave and Anke
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

TEOTWAWKI: The End Of The World As We Know It

James gave the huffle of a snail in danger,
And nobody heard him, at all.

From The Four Friends by A.A. Milne
Wine 101:

Fruit, sugar, water and yeast go into a large bottle. The yeast multiplies, consuming the sugars and converting them to CO2 and ethyl alcohol (waste products, from yeast's point of view). CO2 is vented via a one-way vapor lock to warm the planet. Alcohol is retained, and accumulates until the yeast languishes. We decant and imbibe, hopefully short of  languishing ourselves.

Making wine is kind of like having a lava lamp; it's hypnotic!

The bottle is warming by the fire. Tiny bubbles stream steadily up along the insides. Fruit rises and falls in limpid arcs. The vapor lock - essentially a puddle of water through which CO2 bubbles - emits the occasional, agreeable bloop.

Under the influence of this batch's predecessor, my thoughts drift...

I am a yeast bud, floating in a sea of love. 

I open myself to recieve the Manna with which bountiful heaven has blessed me in abundance. I feast, I grow, I am fruitful. I multiply. Ah, Manifest Destiny... I and my fellow buds prosper. Our numbers grow exponentially; doubling, and doubling again. And again. And again. Surely we are the spitting image of our Maker!

 But there are a few Malcontents, among us. "Can't you see where this is going?", they shrill, "TEOTWAWKI is coming at a run!" 

PISH! Yeast have been crying Gloom and Doom since the first batch of wine. Oh sure, batches have risen and fallen in the past, but we've LEARNED from their mistakes! This is the MODERN WORLD! That was then, this is NOW! Growth is not just common sense, it's the LAW!

I look around at all we've accomplished. In the ferment of THOUSANDS OF GENERATIONS, we've colonized our world from wall to wall. True, our frontiers have vanished, and serious challenges face us. But, even after all this time, there's still TWICE as much fruit and sugar as we require. Our wastes are at only HALF the critical levels, and our scientists are working on the problem.

World enough, and time.

And then, our population doubles once more...

"2X2L calling CQ... 2X2L calling CQ... 2X2L calling CQ... New York. Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone..."  (Apologies to Howard Koch, War of the Worlds) 

The more alcohol tolerant survived... For a while... Subsisting on nutrients released by fallen millions. Sugar is scarce. The air... *COUGH* terrible!  Our exponential growth has become exponential decline. It's TEOTWAWKI... the long slide into the dark night of vinegar. I may be the last bud left...

I jolt from my reverie.

HEY! It's quit bubbling! Time to rack this one and start a new batch!"


The 1972 book, Limits to Growth, laid out the problems of exponential growth within a globally closed system. Four decades later, we are very much on track for the boom / bust cycle common to all life forms undergoing exponential population growth. That's the trouble, with Tribbles.

Dmitry Orlov is an eloquent Kollapsnik turned sailor, whose essay, The New Age of Sail, is as entertaining as it is sobering. He is, in his way, a fellow optimist. Doom, yes. But not Gloom. He has a number of constructive suggestions for how we might prepare ourselves. Not least among them is to acquire a simple sailboat and move aboard.

Derrick Jensen is a little darker and not yet a sailor (nobody's perfect). His Endgame books contain a provocative analysis and call-to-action. His is a rough ride that shakes loose whatever you haven't got bolted down.

TEOTWAWKI recieves a deal of ridicule. But think about it. At some point in our lives, we will each of us undergo at least one round. Things change. In the very best of times, we age and eventually perish. History is stuffed with Worlds As We Knew It (WAWKIs), almost all of which ended. We Moderns underwent two World Wars, ending the WAWKI of millions, altering it for the rest. In the third world, TEOTWAWKI is a way of life.

Some of you are onboard and aware. For the rest, I won't try to convince you. But I recommend you suspend your disbelief and check around. It's hard to argue with yeast.


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